Regular readers will no doubt have cottoned on to the fact this year has been rather turbulent in my life away from the blogosphere — nothing terrible or tragic, thank goodness, but time- and attention-consuming nonetheless. Well, it’s hopefully the (beginning of the) end for that now, as November ends and December begins with me finally moving into a new permanent home.
I know people have “moving day”, but geez, it’s a process, isn’t it? One I’m in the middle of — and has affected my blogging once again at the end of November, as I missed another TV review (which would’ve covered the likes of His Dark Materials, Watchmen, The Mandalorian (even though I’m in the UK), and the BBC’s long-awaited take on War of the Worlds), and didn’t post reviews of major new releases like The Irishman and The Report (both of which I’ve seen, neither of which I’ve had time to write about in full).
My film viewing has suffered once again as well. I’m way behind on both Blindspot and WDYMYHS, not to mention various new releases — not only on the big screen but also stuff I missed earlier in the year that’s now on disc / streaming.
On the bright side, earlier in November was the 2019 FilmBath Festival, and that’s almost single-handedly responsible for this being my highest-totalling month since the summer.
But I’m getting ahead of myself slightly. Here are the films I watched last month…
#135 The Report (2019)
#136 The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)
#137 Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019), aka Portrait de la jeune fille en feu
#138 Little Monsters (2019)
#139 Harriet (2019)
#140 La Belle Époque (2019)
#140a My Theatre (2019)
#141 Filmfarsi (2019)
#141a Terra (2019)
#141b Spooning (2019)
#142 And Then We Danced (2019)
#142a Woman in Stall (2018)
#143 Judy & Punch (2019)
#144 Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (2019)
#145 Jojo Rabbit (2019)
#145a Hey You (2019)
#145b Gladiators on Wheels (2019)
#145c Tight Spot (2018)
#145d When Voices Unite (2017)
#145e Facing It (2018)
#146 The Irishman (2019)
- So, I watched 12 new feature films in November.
- I also watched 9 short films, which is more than I’ve seen in entire years before now.
- The latter were all thanks to FilmBath Festival, as were 92% of the features — as I said at the start, it almost single-handedly rescued this month from being another disappointment.
- Talking of disappointment, I didn’t watch any of last month’s “failures” either.
- Comparisons of averages are hardly “not disappointing”, but they’re also not a total disaster. 12 is above the November average (previously 10.3, now 10.4), though it is slightly below the average for 2019 to date, which even with all those ‘bad’ months was still 13.4. It’s now 13.3, and the rolling average of the last 12 months also comes down to the same (it was previously 14.4).
- One final positive worth mentioning: I passed #137 this month, which puts 2019 into my top five highest-totalling years. So much for all those “terrible” months, eh? Getting any higher than 5th place is unlikely, because for that I’d have to watch 29 films in December… but I have watched more than that in a single month on a handful of previous occasions — so, literally speaking, it’s not impossible.
The 54th Monthly Arbitrary Awards
Favourite Film of the Month
It’s a closely-fought field this month, with about four 5-star films and a couple of highly likeable 4-star-ers too. For the surprise factor — because I hoped I’d like it but ended up absolutely loving it — I’m going to give this to La Belle Époque, but I fully expect a certain other French film to end up above it in my end-of-year rankings.
Least Favourite Film of the Month
I hate to dunk on what’s probably the smallest, most obscure, least-likely-to-get-seen-anyway (feature) film I saw this month, but I’m afraid to say this has to be Filmfarsi. It’s not that I thought it was bad, just a bit rough around the edges, for various reasons. But if its subject sounds interesting to you, I’d still encourage you to see it if you can.
Favourite Short Film of the Month
Last month I watched so many short films that I gave them a category. This month I watched almost twice as many, so it’s back. There are several great ones among the nine I watched, but for being an incredibly impressive technical achievement — all in aid of conveying real emotions and experiences, not showing off for the sake of it — my pick is Facing It.
Best Film Festival of the Month
Okay, I only attended one film festival this month, and I may be a little biased, but FilmBath was a great experience — a nice atmosphere and I saw some fantastic films.
The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
Two posts were closely vying for this award in November, but in the end… it was a tie! I’m not sure I’ve ever had a tie in this category before. (There are 53 previous editions of these awards and I can’t be bothered to check them all right now, sorry.) So the joint winners were my coverage of FilmBath Festival’s opening night and my review of Judy & Punch. (If you really wanted to break the tie, the latter was online for 8 days vs the former’s 23, so therefore amassed a higher average of views per day.)
We begin this month with a Rewatchathon first: a rewatched short.
I first saw Pleased to Eat You last month as part of the prep for FilmBath Festival, then saw it again before the screening of Little Monsters. It merits revisiting, though, because it’s such great fun.
As for the two features rewatched, they’re both movies I feel have been somewhat undervalued. My original reviews of both are linked above, as always. Sometimes I re-read old reviews and am pleasantly surprised by the quality of my own writing (which sounds rather smug and self-gratifying, but I’m talking about very old reviews re-read with some distance, not going back over something I just wrote, which I think makes it different). Sometimes, however, I’m less impressed (which hopefully shows I’m not simply uncritical of my own work). Unfortunately, my review of Easy Virtue from 2011 is one of the underwhelming ones. I stand by its sentiment, but I don’t think I expressed that sentiment very well.
My piece about What We Did on Our Holiday is better, though still not totally clear. I also think it’s a film that improves with rewatching — any faults fade into the background behind the bits that are hilarious, heartfelt, humanist, and sometimes quite beautiful.
Unsurprisingly, there’s plenty to mention here — more than normal, in fact. I say that because there are usually three or four cinema releases I name, but November brought loads. From high-profile releases such as Frozen II, Knives Out, Last Christmas, and Le Mans ’66 (that’s Ford v Ferrari to some of you); to films that were surprises, either because they were hits, or flopped, or provoked controversy, or just seemed to come out of nowhere, like Midway, The Good Liar, Charlie’s Angels, and Blue Story (you can match up which of those is which); to smaller releases of note, like The Nightingale (the new one from Jennifer “The Babadook” Kent) and Greener Grass; to ones that probably fit into one or more of those other categories, though I’m not sure which, like The Aeronauts and 21 Bridges. Sure, some of those are films I never would’ve made the effort to see in the cinema anyway, but they’re all ones I’ll look out for in the future nonetheless.
It was also an uncommonly productive month for Netflix — they release new series all the damn time nowadays, but it feels like their original films that are worthy of note congregate at the end of the year. As well as the obvious one (see #146) there was The King, Earthquake Bird, and Christmas movie Klaus (which I’ve saved for December, because duh). Talking of the incoming season, there were a bunch more tacky-looking Christmas originals, foremost among which is surely The Knight Before Christmas — a film where they definitely came up with the title first and worked backwards. It looks and sounds terrible, obviously, and yet there’s something about its reputed awfulness (and that marvellous pun) that’s tempting me to watch it… Back on the sensible end of the spectrum, festival winners like Atlantics and I Lost My Body also popped on in the last couple of days.
Also added in the past month was Dragon Ball Super: Broly. That’s a franchise that’s never otherwise interested me, but I’m tempted to see what all the fuss was about for this particular entry: it was the highest-grossing anime film of 2018 and one of the highest of all time, including in the UK, where it became the second highest-grossing anime ever (behind only Spirited Away) and an advance screening sold out in just 23 seconds. Is its success thanks to a dedicated fanbase and limited number of screenings, or is it actually something special? There’s one way to find out… Lastly on Netflix, not a film but a series about films: The Movies That Made Us, a spin-off from their successful series about toys that, as far as I can tell, basically trades in ’80s nostalgia. Of course, the making of movies is a lot better documented than the making of toys, so whether it has anything new to say about the likes of Die Hard or Ghostbusters seems doubtful.
Amazon didn’t have too many originals to offer — or perhaps any, besides one (see #135). But there were a few catalogue additions I want to see, like Magic Mike and Umberto D (not two films you’d normally see mentioned side-by-side…), and a few oddities that caught my eye, among them Tsui Hark’s directorial debut, Butterfly Murders, and Too Late, which is billed as “a sexy, smart noir detective thriller… told in non-linear fashion, in a series of five true long takes… with stunning 35mm cinematography.” They also say the latter is “a cinephile’s dream” and, yeah, it does sound a bit like that. They also have a bunch of reduced price rentals for Prime members, in which I recently hoovered up Missing Link, Booksmart, Brightburn, and Eighth Grade — now I’ve just got to make sure to make time for them before the rentals expire.
Finally, there’s the new stuff I bought on disc, like Apollo 11 in 4K, and in 3D Spider-Man: Far from Home, Aladdin, and Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (the latter two only thanks to sale prices). Then there were new catalogue releases, like Masters of Cinema editions of The African Queen and Der Golem, and Arrow’s release of RoboCop; a sale purchase of Candymen: Farewell to the Flesh (I enjoyed the first one a lot so figured this sequel was worth a punt); and the HD box set of Batman Beyond… which, for its UK release, replaced the Blu-ray disc of spin-off movie Return of the Joker with a censored DVD copy. WTF, Warner?
And all that without even dipping into any Black Friday deals! Which, actually, are mostly still ongoing. Hmm…
It’s been a very up and down kind of year here at 100 Films — will December end it on another higher, or in another dip? There’s only one place to find out: right here, in 31 days’ time.
(Unless I also mention it on Twitter.)